Humorist Dan Zevin once famously quipped: “Lately, all of my friends are worried that they are turning into their fathers. I’m worried that I’m not.” If the work of photographer Craig Gibson is anything to go by, he has nothing to worry about: we are all our father’s sons, and the similarities go deeper than we know. In Gibson’s Boys and Their Fathers series, sons and fathers imprint upon one another, blending into a personification of their own relationships. And if these mash-ups show anything, it’s that even the unexpected differences between a father and his son can put into relief the deep, unexpected ways that a family’s blood runs true.
Scarcely older than a boy himself, Gibson lives in Glasgow, Scotland, where he is pursuing a degree in photography at his local university. Boys and Their Fathers began as a school project when Gibson became interested in exploring the physical similarities between himself and his paterfamilias. He took a self-portrait and a photo of his dad, matched the two pictures up as best as he could, then developed them both on the same piece of paper.
In the case of Gibson Sr. and Jr. the results are striking. There are some superficial differences between the two Gibsons–Mr. Gibson is bald, and has a fleshier head in general, while Craig has hair–but the similarities run deep, right down to the way in which both men hold their mouths. Overlaid atop one another, the younger Gibson and the older Gibson seem to blend in and out of each another, like two halves of the same person fluctuating rapidly between past and future selves.
“By merging the photographs, I was hoping to create a unique portrait, not of one subject or the other, but of their relationship as a whole,” Gibson tells Co.Design. “I wanted to reveal something new about a father and son that was about more than just their physical similarities: for example, their shared stance, their mood, or expression.”
In other portraits in the series, you can see what Gibson is talking about. Blended together, sons reverse the ravages of alcohol on their fathers’ faces, and fathers smooth away their sons’ weighted cynicism with the glow of their own paternal pride. Some sons emulate their fathers down to the scowl, while others seem distanced from their fathers by the crush of time itself. Even a toddler might look into the distance in the same indefinable way as his father: Blended together as the gestalt personification of their mutual relationship, nothing else matches up, but the eyes are the same. And those eyes say everything: no matter who we are, we all have more in common with our fathers than we think.
You can see more of Craig Gibson’s photography work here.